The Shroud of Silk
- Sorcery: Sorcery is the ability to manipulate one or more of the sorcerer’s Powers to extend the use of that power. Through study, inspiration, and precise power manipulation, sorcerers learn to make use of the energy generated by a Power.
- What is a Spell?: A spell is a special use of an existing power, weaving it into some greater or more useful effect than the power typically allows on its own. The energy for the spell comes only partly from the Sorcerer, most of it is borrowed from the energy the Power generates.
- Hanging a Spell: Spells must be prepared beforehand, during a process that takes many minutes. When the spells are hung there are gaps in the spells that can later be used to guide the spell’s power with special command words called Lynchpins.
- Spell Power: Spells are based directly on the attributes of the Sorcerer. Psyche is by far the most important attribute for determining the raw power of spells. Warfare can be helpful to sorcerers for anticipating how opponents will try to escape a spell, and Endurance is helpful for keeping spells strong when the Sorcerer is engaged in a particularly difficult and long contest.
- Noncombat Sorcery: Some spells are simply too unwieldy to cast in combat. Spells that perform a massive alteration to a huge area, spells that teleport an item or person, and spells that create any kind of permanent or long-lasting effect. These spells can either be hung, so that they can be cast without a huge effort at the time they are needed, or simply cast whole at the time. If hung, spells of this type are too complex to use in a combat situation. They require so much attention that anyone casting one in combat would be essentially leaving themselves helpless. Thus, even if a sorcerer has bodyguards to shield her from attack, trying to use one of these spells while under attack is a last resort, an act of desperation.
Lynchpins fill in the gaps in spells so that a Sorcerer can cast a spell that will be dynamic, and react to changing conditions. For something like a spell to make a field more fertile, or to conjure something up when there’s no time pressure, there’s no need for Lynchpins, or hanging the spell at all. The sorcerer can take the time to simply cast the spell from start to finish, getting exactly the effect he wants because nothing is resisting him.
However, most useful magic is used in a situation that’s constantly changing, such as battle, some kind of natural disaster, or in order to protect against or escape from a stressful situation. In times like that, there’s no time to cast a spell the long way, and one cannot predict what will be needed at any exact moment.
Lynchpins release the power of a spell, and also guide the current form that power will take. They cannot radically alter the way a spell works, most basic things about the spell are set at the time of casting. Lynchpins allow the spell to react to the current situation by defining a mode of action for the spell.
Using Sorcery in Combat
Spells will generally originate in the world, or directly attached to a target. This determines what kinds of Lynchpins the spell can take. Spells that directly attach to a target must name the target as part of the first Lynchpin. They are hard to avoid, indeed, most people cannot escape a targeted spell, just attempt to mitigate the effects via their Psyche or their defenses. However, they cannot later be expanded outside the target.
A shapeshifting spell to freeze a combatant cannot use a lynchpin that moves it to another target, ordinarily. Instead it will use lynchpins that affect the way the target freezes (muscle lockup, icy power, force-cage), lynchpins that combat or sidestep any defenses that are brought to bear, and lynchpins that determine what on the person the spell tries to freeze first. You might want to paralyze the head of a sorcerer first, or his mouth, to stop him using Lynchpins. It’d be a higher priority to attack the limbs of a swordsman first.
Spells that are created in the world have a lot more freedom in how they can be expanded, where they can attack, who they can effect. But since they are not directly tied to any one target, people can try to escape them by moving and dodging, and the spell has no fool-proof way to chase them. Instead, the Sorcerer uses lynchpins to move or expand the spell into the places where he wants it to be effective.
Example: Isabella casts a Pillar of Flame spell. She actually has two of these hung, one as targeted, and one as originating from a point she describes. The first pillar of flame gets cast against Grant, who is a sorcerer without any great ability in warfare.
Isabella uses her pillar that originates from a targeted spot against Grant. When she casts the initial spell, she picks the spot directly under Grant’s feet, and a massive gout of flame bursts up underneath him. Understandably, Grant tries to run! Isabella’s next few rounds involve her using her lynchpins to make the flame pillar move, chasing Grant, sometimes burning him, sometimes he manages to escape. When Grant reaches his bodyguards and ducks behind them, Isabella uses a lynchpin to expand the pillar, reducing the overall heat of the flames, but burning his entire cadre of soldiers.
Later, she’s up against Grant’s sister, Cynthia. Cynthia has some kind of bogus complaint about her brother being burned. Isabella knows that Cynthia is quick, and agile, so she’ll be hard to catch with a moving spell. Plus, Cynthia came to get her revenge without any backup, so there’s no need to hit other targets. Isabella casts the targeted version of her Pillar of Flame, linking it directly to the vengeful girl. Cynthia cannot escape the fire, it bursts up from underneath whatever spot she happens to be on. Since the spell is linked to Cynthia’s psyche, and not a location, the girl resists the fire not by trying to get away from it, but with her mind, and any defenses she might have.
Now Isabella is using Lynchpins to compensate for Cynthia’s Pattern defense, working the fire in past the gaps in the Pattern’s shield. She makes it flare up all over Cynthia with one lynchpin, so that her foe has to defend from all sides, and the next moment switches it to an intense, targeted flame that cuts past the weaker all-over defense. This time the battle is more about breaking past her opponent’s resistance than figuring out what parts of the battlefield ought to be gouting fire.